LIFE has been a whirlwind for Dr David Drew – although he might not admit it. “Well, it’s pleasure and pain isn’t it?” he said. “I see it like this – I lost my three brothers to accidental deaths and that was at a time when I was bringing my own children up. “I had to live with the sadness of my brothers’ deaths, but pair that with raising my children.
“That’s the reality of life. It’s a mix.” And throughout his life, resilient Dr Drew has certainly had the best of both worlds.
There’s been the pleasure – his training in Bristol, running medical camps in the likes of Thailand and Nigeria and landing what he considered, at first, a “wonderful job” at Walsall Manor Hospital in 1992.
But then came the pain, which he said began when he spoke out about the death of a young patient in 2006. Kyle Keen was just 16-months-old when he was violently shaken to death by his stepfather, Tyrone Matthews.
But one week before his death, Kyle had received treatment at Walsall Manor – where bruising had been spotted on his body. Despite this, the youngster was sent home by another doctor and information was not passed on to police or Walsall Council’s children’s services – leading to no action being taken. “It was an avoidable death,” said Dr Drew. “The hospital covered up everything about Kyle’s death, they refused to take action or any remedy to rectify the mistakes.
“A serious case review [in 2009] admitted that Kyle was unlawfully killed following catastrophic failings at the hospital.” The head of the paediatric department at the time, Dr Drew became a whistle blower and raised concerns over the death.
He said this put him on a collision course with senior NHS management. It was in December last year – seven years following Kyle’s death – that Walsall Manor Hospital agreed to finally launch a thorough review into Kyle’s death.
The report is due to be published next week. But for Dr Drew, it is too late. “This should’ve been done within weeks of Kyle’s death – it should have been done years ago,” he argued. “It’s only when this report comes out that the public will have any idea of what really happened. “All I can say is that it explains what I’ve said about Kyle’s death from the start.”
Dr Drew’s book – Little Stories of Life and Death – is dedicated to Kyle. The youngster’s father, Rob, has been in contact with the doctor since they met in September 2012.
When asked if he thinks the report will give Mr Keen closure, Dr Drew isn’t so sure. “The thing is, you can’t undo the past,” he said. “But it helps when serious mistakes have been made and someone puts their hands up and says, ‘we’ve got this wrong’. “It’s ruined Rob’s life – he’s lost his son, his young daughter has lost a brother. “This report will send shockwaves.”
For Dr Drew, who moved on to become a clinical director, things went from bad to worse at the hospital. He grabbed the national headlines when he was sacked from Walsall Manor Hospital in 2010 for emailing quotes from the Bible to colleagues. Although insisting he had sent the prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, to boost morale at a time of “cost-cutting” at the hospital, he was dismissed and lost his claim for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal. Employment Judge David Kearsley agreed that Dr Drew’s religious language had been inappropriate in a professional business setting.
Two subsequent appeals against the ruling were also dismissed. His experience – along with allegations of bullying and understaffed wards at the hospital – have all been written down in Little Stories of Life and Death.
But the 66-year-old admits that reflecting on the past wasn’t easy. “Writing this book has been an immensely painful experience,” he said. “Going over my removal as clinical director, the disciplinary procedure, the tribunals and appeals were tough.”
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom at Walsall Manor, Dr Drew adds. He says the first 14 years of his career in Walsall were some of the best he ever had – and that he enjoyed reflecting back on them. “When I joined the hospital permanently in 1992 I had done a year there already in 1987,” said Dr Drew. “My wife Janet inspired me to get the job – she said during that year I had worked there, I was the happiest she had ever known me. “I loved Walsall. It’s very cosmopolitan. I knew I was never your average doctor and I had a lot of banter.”
Dr Drew is also positive about Richard Kirby, current chief executive of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the hospital. “There’s a spirit of openness coming from the chief executive’s office which should transform the culture of Manor Hospital,” he said. “He needs bigging up – he’s a young man trying his best.”
Little Stories of Life and Death was published by Matador in April 2014 – and David said it has been “selling like hot cakes” with positive feedback from as far afield as Australia. He explained that the book also opens people’s eyes to how the NHS works.
“The NHS is brilliant – it saved my life twice last year and we have one of the best, most efficient health services in the world,” said Dr Drew, who lives in Sutton Coldfield. “But parts of it are badly managed, the culture is dreadful – staff are bullied, it does go on. “I hope my own story will help to create a culture in which it’s safe for staff to speak up for patients.”
For now, David looks forward to enjoying his retirement with wife Janet – whom he married in 1971 – and spending time with his four children and nine grandchildren. But he added that he has “another year or two” in him of talking and writing about his experience.
When asked if he would take the opportunity to blow the whistle again, Dr Drew’s response is a stern one. He believes that the stress of what he has gone through brought on a heart attack, which he suffered last year. “If I was a single person with no family I would definitely do it, but knowing what immense grief it’s brought to my whole family, the financial loss and the affect my illnesses have had on my family I wouldn’t,” he said. “And I wouldn’t advise anybody who’s got dependant relatives to raise concerns like I did. It’s too damaging all around.”
This week, after being contacted by the Advertiser, Walsall Manor Healthcare NHS Trust released a statement on the book. “We are aware that Dr Drew’s book has now been published,” said Richard Kirby, chief executive of the trust. “The issues that Dr Drew raises were the subject of an independent review back in 2009 and the employment issues involved were tested at an employment tribunal. “In addition we have recently commissioned a further review of a specific case. “As a trust we actively encourage and support our staff to raise an issue if they are concerned about patient care.”
And when asked about the investigation into Kyle Keen’s death, Mr Kirby added: “We will be meeting with Kyle’s father over the next few days to share the outcome of the external review. “A further statement will be available next week when the report is published.”
Little Stories of Life and Death can be purchased for £10.99 online from http://www.troubador.co.uk